A Democrat on the Los Angeles City Council has been hit with a 20-count federal indictment alleging conspiracy, bribery and fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California announced Wednesday night.
The office's official Twitter account tweeted:
"Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas charged with conspiracy, bribery and fraud offenses allegedly committed while a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Full announcement on grand jury indictment coming soon. @FBILosAngeles"
The indictment alleges that Ridley-Thomas and the former dean of the School of Social Work at a University in Southern California had conspired in an alleged bribery scheme in which a Ridley-Thomas relative received substantial benefits from the university in exchange for Ridley-Thomas' support of county contracts and lucrative contract amendments with the university while he served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
"This indictment charges a seasoned lawmaker who allegedly abused the public's trust by taking official actions to benefit his family member and himself," acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison wrote in a statement announcing the indictment. "The corrupt activities alleged in the indictment were facilitated by a major university's high-ranking administrator whose desire for funding apparently trumped notions of integrity and fair play.
"Public corruption cases are among the most important matters we pursue, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute whenever public officials and others entrusted with taxpayer funds break the law."
According to the indictment, Ridley-Thomas, 66, conspired with Marilyn Louise Flynn, formerly a tenured professor and dean of the university's School of Social Work, who agreed to provide the Ridley-Thomas relative with graduate school admission, a full-tuition scholarship, a paid professorship, and a mechanism to funnel Ridley-Thomas campaign funds through the university to a nonprofit to be operated by the relative.
In exchange, the indictment alleges, Ridley-Thomas supported contracts involving the School of Social Work, including contracts to provide services to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Probation Department, as well as an amendment to a contract with the Department of Mental Health (DMH) that would bring the school millions of dollars in new revenue.
"This investigation should send a message to public officials that government contracts are not for sale," the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office's Assistant Director in Charge Kristi K. Johnson wrote in a statement. "This indictment reaffirms the FBI's commitment to rooting out corruption by holding accountable those who abuse the trust of the people they serve and who exploit their powerful positions to obtain benefits at the expense of taxpayers."
Ridley-Thomas is a former California state senator (2006-'08) and a state assemblyman (2002-'06), having served as the chairman of the Assembly Democratic Caucus.
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